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Bill would require sober houses to have supply of opiate antagonists

Would lives be saved or would more addicts relapse if sober houses are required to keep addictive drugs on hand to counteract an opiate overdose?

Sponsored by Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL-Mankato), HF3954, as amended, would require all sober homes in Minnesota to keep opiate antagonists such as naloxone and naltrexone on site, and to also allow residents to use their own prescription medications for overall addiction and mental health treatments.

Sober homes are transitional living spaces for individuals exiting recovery programs.

The House Human Services Policy Committee laid the bill over Monday for possible inclusion in a larger bill.

Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have prohibited addictive drugs at sober homes, such as Valium, Xanax, Ambien, or Adderall.

“Had any fellow residents possessed those medications, I would have attempted to misuse those medications to fuel my own addiction,” said Randy Anderson, a recovery system reform advocate referencing his stay at a chemical-free sober home. Anderson supports the bill.

Baker favors the bill but believes sober homes should be able to “carve out what they’re not happy with” in terms of addictive medications to keep on hand. He added that 68% of sober homes allow prescription medications on site.

“As a therapist I would have real concerns if we’re having this discussion, and a prescriber has prescribed something and we’re going to say that’s not included in sobriety,” said Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina).

Frederick indicated he would convene a stakeholder meeting to further understand perspectives.

Many organizations submitted written testimony on the bill.

Opponents said it would constitute an unfunded mandate that overreaches; some sober homes do not have management and oversight capacities to keep addictive medications on site, they noted.

Dr. Ryan Kelly, who practices at the Community-University Health Care Center, said forcing people to choose between a chemical-free sober home and their medication is wrong.

“The harder it is to access housing, the more likely it is that they will die,” he said.

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